CanZine West: The Independent Publishing Community Gathers in Vancouver

Print is alive and well, as more than 40 vendors were hawking independent magazines, comics and novels at this year's CanZine West.

Credit: Stacey McLachlan

Kristen Cheung’s CanZine booth | Granville Online

CanZine West Hosts Vancouver’s Independent Publishing Community


Nobody told the 70 vendors at the Ukrainian Hall in East Vancouver that print is dead. And even if someone did break the harsh news, they probably wouldn’t believe it.

As visitors eagerly pawed through homemade comic books, lovingly hand-stitched diaries, intricately printed alternative manifestos and self-published novels, digital prophecies seemed like the ramblings of a madman.

Cold, hard, tangible paper is alive and well, if the sights at CanZine West are to be believed.


Comic artist Carina Piccioni illustrates vignettes from her own life. They could be yours for only a few dollars! (Image: Stacey McLachlan)

Literary mag Broken Pencil plays host to the event each year, bringing together Vancouver’s underground publishing community under one roof for a day of mingling and show-and-tell. Independent media and diverse public voices are important: after all, we can’t let Time-Warner and Walt Disney have all the fun.

Whether you’re telling a story or speaking out against “the man”, DIY publishing allows you to maintain creative control and avoid censorship. And while blogging (on the Internet!) is a great way to—to paraphrase Madonna—“express yourself”, you certainly can’t experiment with form the way you can with a physical piece.

I saw poems rolled up and tucked into a cigarette box, books that unfolded from a business card and impressively replicated passports. It may not be retweetable, but it’s art.


Do-It-Yourself with Zine Workshops

Independent literary mags, self-published books, and diary comics shared the floor at this year’s CanZine West in East Vancouver’s Ukrainian Hall. (Image: Stacey McLachlan)

In a makeshift workshop room behind a dusty red curtain, Vancouver writer Kevin Chong read from his new book Beauty Plus Pity, and Geist magazine’s Eve Corbel taught guests how to make their very own zine (that’s what the kids today call homemade magazines) in an hour. It looked like a Kindergarten art class: hipsters bent solemnly over the table, engrossed in their three-panel comics and flip-book diaries, only looking up to pass the scissors or grab a new pencil crayon.

The final event of the night was Broken Pencil’s annual Indie Writers Deathmatch—a head-to-head storytelling battle. The competition ended in a tiebreaker and was decided by an arm wrestling contest, as these things often do. Thankfully, no blood was shed.

Zine Makers and Zine lovers: United at Last

Portrait of a zine: homemade magazines are usually black and white photocopied affairs. (Image: Stacey McLachlan)

In the basement, artists packed the room with their comic books: some were glossy affairs, with colour covers and perfect binding, while many were crudely (though lovingly!) photocopied booklets, selling for a few dollars each.

A shy girl with thick glasses sketched away as visitors thumbed through her illustrated guide to combating homesickness. Next to her, piles of hand-lettered, shockingly graphic adult movie reviews. Across the room, thick, stapled packets of handmade colouring books were for sale.

The drafty dance hall upstairs featured the more literary projects. Vancouver based publications like Geist and White Rabbit Quarterly hawked their latest issues and zine makers swapped their latest creations with each other. A guide to menstruation is a fair trade for memoirs of your days as a Brownie in this market.

CanZine West wrapped up this past Sunday, November 13, but it will be back again next fall. Better warm up the photocopier now.